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  • Writer's pictureWill Dempsey

How Therapy Can Help With Exploring Gender Identity

Exploring your gender identity can be a tricky and challenging process, no matter what stage you’re at in life. Many of the clients we've worked with have struggled in isolation for years without ever telling even their closest friends or family members that they’re questioning their gender identity. For a lot of people, those questions feel scary — like your whole world trembles whenever you start asking them — but exploring gender identity doesn’t have to be high stakes. It can be a joyful process and a celebration of curiosity and self.

In today’s article, I will explore how therapy can help you unpack your gender identity in a safe and playful environment.

Therapy as a Playground

We have a sense of therapy as something that’s dreadfully serious — a place to dwell on the great questions and concerns of our lives — but it’s also a place where we can play and explore. Therapists play a unique role in the lives of their clients. We aren’t spouses or parents or even best friends — we don’t judge; we observe, ask questions, and offer feedback.

Some of my clients have used therapy as a way to dip their toes into exploring other avenues of gender expression. Sometimes, that means a little roleplaying — trying on a different name and new pronouns for a session to see how they fit. I love it when my clients use therapy as an opportunity to practice their preferred gender presentation.

Exploring Past Memories

There are several different forms of therapy that are tailored to help people unpack and explore old memories. EMDR therapy is particularly helpful in improving active recall, allowing people to trace their feelings, ideas, and beliefs back to their roots. When working with clients interested in exploring their gender identity, I’m always curious about when those feelings first surfaced in their lives and how they’ve acted on them over the years.

Society pushes gender roles on us, starting with the first ultrasound (before we’re born!), regardless of whether or not that gender identity fits or feels right for us. Often, we know something doesn’t fit well before we have the language or knowledge to make sense of it. As part of therapy, you’ll be able to go back and explore how and when your assigned gender and preferred gender may have diverged.

Exploring Transition Options

Not everyone transitions the same way. There’s no right or wrong way to explore your gender identity, and there’s no single mold you have to fit. A therapist can help you navigate the pros and cons of complex decisions related to transition and help you determine whether or not HRT (hormone-replacement therapy) or medical procedures are right for you.

Sometimes, giving your questions or curiosities about gender identity a place to breathe is enough — other times, it’s the first step in a longer process.

Navigating Social Transition

As you explore your gender identity, you may want to share your journey with others. Therapy allows you to create a game plan for having difficult conversations with the people in your life.

Managing Dysphoria

If your exploration of gender is linked to gender dysphoria, therapy can be a critical resource in helping to combat those symptoms. Therapy can help you identify triggers for your dysphoria, as well as ways you can mitigate that by incorporating your preferred gender identity into your daily life over time.

Schedule a Consultation

Whether your gender identity is something you’ve struggled with your whole life or are just now starting to explore, it isn’t a journey you have to go through on your own. Reach out today if you’re curious about learning about LGBTQIA+ therapy. We'd love to work with you to make a treatment plan that takes your unique experience into consideration.

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